Whenever a nominee for a high-level government job sits down for a nomination hearing, he should expect to be grilled by the opposing Party.
However, most nominees don’t expect to have their feet put to the fire by their own party!
That’s exactly what happened this past week, when former Congressman, current CIA Director, and possibly soon-to-be Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, sat down to field questions from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY).
Senator Paul has been a consistent defender of President Trump in the media, though he has continued to stand against the President’s policies on trade, military spending, infrastructure spending, and civil libertarian issues. In fact, Paul has attempted to walk a fine line in continuing to support President Trump, while not leaving his core libertarian values behind.
Last week’s confirmation hearing was one example where Senator Paul simply could not allow the President’s nominee to skate by without being grilled about his position on attacking Syria, without Congressional authorization.
Senator Paul routinely, and consistently attacked President Obama for using the military without Congressional approval, and now he’s doing the same to President Trump.
From Mike Pompeo’s Confirmation Hearing:
Rand Paul: Thanks for your testimony and thanks for going through this grueling enterprise and your willingness to serve the country. You discussed with Senator Kaine a little bit about whether or not the President has the authority to bomb Assad’s forces or installations in Syria and you mention historically, well we have done it in the past.
I don’t think that’s a complete enough answer. I mean my question would be do you think it’s constitutional? Does the President have the constitutional authority to bomb Assad’s forces? Does he have the authority absent congressional action to bomb Assad’s forces or instillations?
Mike Pompeo: Senator, as I — I think I said this to Senator Kaine, I’m happy to repeat my view on this. Those decisions are weighted. Every place we can, we should work alongside Congress to get that but yes I believe the President has the domestic authority to do that. I don’t think — I don’t think that has been disputed by republicans or democrats throughout an extended period of time.
Rand Paul: Actually it was disputed mostly by our founding fathers who believed they gave that authority to Congress and actually they’re uniformly opposed to the executive branch having that power. In fact, Madison wrote very specifically, he said, “The executive branch is the branch most prone to war. Therefore, we have with studied care vested that authority into the legislature”.
So the fact that we have in the past done this doesn’t make it constitutional and I would say that I take objection to the idea that the president can go to war when he wants, where he wants. With regard to Afghanistan, some have argued that it’s time to get out of Afghanistan. What do you think?
Mike Pompeo: Senator, I think the course of action that President Trump has taken there is the right one. It’s — it is humble in its mission. It understands that we’ve been there an awfully long time. It has an objective of leaving, but is not prepared to leave until such time as we can put America in a position where we can greatly diminish the threat to our homeland from terrorism that may emanate from there.
And with an effort alongside that which will be required to achieve that first objective to create, I want to be humble, more stability in Afghanistan.
Rand Paul: Actually, the the president has been very specific at times on this and he said, “It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and bridges and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interest”. That’s a direct quote. So, the president said it was time to get out. It sounds like you say it’s time to stay. Is that a difference in opinion?
Some here are worried that you’re going to be too much in agreement with the president in action (ph) or are you going to be in too much in disagreement with the president. One of the things I have liked about the president is he says it is time to come home. Let’s declare a victory and come home, but it sounds to me like you were saying we need to stay.
Mike Pompeo: Senator, it sounds like I have a Goldilocks problem, too close, too far, different porridge for each. Senator, the president also said in the summer at Fort Meyer that he was committed to the mission that I outlined there. That’s consistent with what secretary of state has been trying to do diplomatically.
It’s consistent with what Secretary Mattis has been trying to do by supporting Afghan forces in the country. I believe and I share the president’s view that we have a continued role there. And while I want to get out in the same way you do, I have friends who are serving there. I’ve had friends, as I know you would, who have been injured. We’re not a place yet where it’s appropriate to do so.
Rand Paul: Here’s the problem, is are we ever going to be at that place? I mean, so you’ve got people, the administration yourself now saying in your written questions back to me that there’s not a military solution. So, we’re sending our G.I.’s out there to risk life and limb when there is not military solution hoping that we – sounds a little bit like Vietnam.
Hoping that we get to a little position, let’s bomb the crap out of them to get them to negotiate and we’ll get to a little better negotiation. In the end it was no better in Vietnam. It was still a disaster in the very end. And a lot of people wasted their lives in the end for that.
I think that there is no military mission and when you admit there’s no military mission it is hard for me to square with your desire still to stay. And, we say oh we want to leave but when, we’ve been there 18 years. I think we should declare victory and come home. I think we won the battle. We did. We literally did win.
There’s nobody left alive who plotted to attack us on 9/11. I’ve asked people repeatedly, tell me the names of those left alive in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, anywhere in the world. We’re now sending people to war who weren’t even born when 9/11 was. And, every administration comes, not just republican, democrat.
They come and say oh well it’s, you know, it’s just fine. We’re going to keep fighting these wars and it’s like it has something to do with 9/11. No, it has nothing to do with 9/11. everybody around the world is – that is a radical Islamist we now are at war with because we said we got the permission to go at 9/11.
But when you were in Congress you had a little bit different position, you know. Your position with Libya was that we should get authorization. Your position in 2013 was also – you wrote an Op Ed with Tom Cotton saying well we should give the president the authority he needs to go into Syria not because you were like me that we shouldn’t get involved in another war because you were eager to get involved and you wanted to give the president permission saying please, President Trump, let’s go to war in Syria.
But I think we need to think these things through and we need to not be so carte blanche that the Constitution does give just carte blanche permission for the president to do whatever he wants. Do you think the Iraq war was a mistake?
Mike Pompeo: Senator, I was running a machine shop in Kansas at the time so I don’t have a contemporaneous view that I expressed.
Rand Paul: No opinions back then? How about opinions now?
Mike Pompeo: I may well have had an opinion. But, no, my opinion now is, look, we clearly had – we had bad intelligence. I’ve been one of the few CIA directors who’s been willing to say we get it wrong. In spite of all the enormous resources …
Rand Paul: But it’s not just bad intelligence.
Mike Pompeo: But we did have – we did have bad intelligence.
Rand Paul: We did geopolitically the wrong thing. We got rid of the enemy of Iran. We emboldened Iran. We made it worse, we brought chaos to the Middle East. We are still suffering the ramifications and repercussion of the Iraq war but your president said it very clearly.
He says the Iraq war was the single worst decision ever made. So, once again, I’m concerned that you won’t be supporting the president. That you will be influencing him in a way that I think his inclinations are actually better than many of his advisors. That the Iraq war was a mistake that we need to come home from Afghanistan.
He was against being involved in Syria at many times in his career. So think he does have good instincts and my main concern is that will you be one who will listen to what the president actually wants instead of being someone who advocates for us staying forever in Afghanistan.
Another Iraq war, bombing Syria without permission. So, these are the advice you will give and I guess that’s my biggest concern with your nomination is that I don’t think it reflects the millions of people who voted for President Trump who actually voted for him because they thought it’d be different.
That it wouldn’t be the traditional bipartisan consensus to bomb everywhere and be everywhere around the world. So, that’s my main concern and I just want to make sure that that’s loud and clear to everyone that is my concern.
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